Galerie Cecile Fakhoury is pleased to present the first solo exhibition of Beninese artist, Romeo Mivekannin at its gallery in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, from 18 September, 2020 to 28 November, 2020.
The exhibition presents a dozen large format works that have never before been shown to the public.
Born in Bouako (Cote d'Ivoire) in 1986, Romeo Mivekannin lives and works between Toulouse (France) and Cotonou (Benin).
The artist Romeo Mivekannin draws his inspiration from photographic archives and iconic paintings emblematic of the history of Western art. From Jean-Leon Ger´me's "The Slave Market"
(1873) to Gustave Manet's "Olympia" (1863) and the first photographic portraits of the colonial monarchies of the second half of the 19th century, RomÃ©o Mivekannin focuses particularly on the ambiguous representations of black figures, sources of both fascination and fear, sometimes anonymized, eroticized or objectified and intended for the almost exclusive gaze of a male and Euro-centred viewer.
The artist's works; black acrylic paintings on canvases tinted by repeated elixir baths, question a marked iconography inherited from the systems of human trafficking and domination that stemmed from slavery and colonization. Drawing direct links between past and
contemporary history, the artist chooses to take the facts of these historical representations and subvert their primary narrative in order to construct, somewhat ironically, his own vision of common narratives.
"Taking myself as a subject, taking my own body as a subject."
For his first solo exhibition in Africa, Romeo Mivekannin deploys a process of eloquent sculptural conversation. From one work to the next, the compositions of the canvases are in constant dialogue
with a complex visual history made of direct references to classical painting and to the stereotyped images that defined the representation of black people in 19 century Europe.
Faced with the inability to identify himself with these images and to weave a thread through these historical narratives, Romeo Mivekannin fits into these representative regimes, substituting his own portrait for those of the original black characters.
The repeated appearance of the artist's face sometimes in the foreground, sometimes hidden in the crowds of figurants is disturbing.
Like an uncompromising assertion, the repetition embodies his desire to reclaim a regime of visibility from which he had hitherto been excluded. In Mivekannin's work, the act of representation is thus an intimate ritual of accession to identity.
Each work has its own historical time. The canvases are plunged several times into elixir baths, the composition of which only the artist knows, giving them each their unique coloring. Then comes the
moment of painting. «In the voodoo tradition,» explains the artist, «each god corresponds to a deceased ancestor.
When one wears the mask of one of these gods, of a person who has lived, it is an act of liberation».
In his works, Romeo Mivekannin thus questions the invisible and the hidden.
He brings to light the workings of representation that carry the systems of domination and introduces a subtle critique, on the borderline between rewriting a collective memory and repairing a fractured personal identity.